OSCAR NOMINATED SHORTS – Live Action and Animated (2011)


Greetings again from the darkness. Every year I mention how the Magnolia Theatre in Dallas presents one of my favorite movie events … the Oscar nominated short films. Three hours of quality filmmaking! It’s also a reminder of just how frustrating it is that so few people actually get to see these interesting short films.  Why aren’t they screened periodically throughout the year in association with major film releases?  Pixar manages to do this successfully, so it only makes sense that others could follow suit.  With all of that being said, I must regrettably report that this year’s batch didn’t light the fire for me the way past years have.  The quality of the filmmaking was present, but the creative storytelling fell a bit short.

Below is my recap by category, and in order of preference:

LIVE ACTION

 THE SHORE (Ireland) directed by Terry George.  This one is probably the most mainstream/accessible because it tells a story that is easily relatable.  Ciaran Hinds stars as a man returning home to Ireland after 25 years.  He has his grown daughter (Kerry Condon) in tow, and she is much more anxious than he to reassemble the pieces of his past. As he reconnects with his former best friend and fiancé, we learn they have each harbored secrets and guilt since last they saw each other.  Watching how it plays out is actually quite touching, and includes some humorous moments as well.

TUBA ATLANTIC (Norway) directed by Hallvar Witzo.  Our lead character is an elderly man who has been told by his doctor that he has six days to live.  He is then visited by a self-described Angel of Death – a teenage girl volunteering to spend time with him, and help him through the stages of dying.  Their time together involves her causing him to lose one of his six days thanks to sleeping pills.  She also joins in on his personal vendetta against the local sea gulls, who clearly have been a menace for years. We also see the giant tuba that brings him some peace.

TIME FREAK (USA) directed by Andrew Bowler. One of the two characters has invented a time travel machine for the purpose of realizing his dream of visiting ancient Rome. Instead of visiting Caesar, he jumps off-track due to his inability to get over the minutae of life.  We also get the best Oceanography reference since “Seinfeld”.

PENTECOST (Ireland) directed by Peter McDaniel. We are dropped into 1977 Ireland as a young alter boy makes a critical mistake during mass.  His punishment forces him to miss his beloved futbol team’s big game. Given a second chance, we witness quite a funny pep talk by the local priest.  The sports analogy is impossible to miss, but the young man proves he may be a bit more hard-headed than first thought.

RAJU (Germany) directed by Max Zahle. A young couple travel to India to adopt an orphan boy. What they soon discover is that they are mere bit players in a human trafficking scam.  We see how differently the two people react and how self-interest can sometimes cloud one’s judgment.

ANIMATION

 THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR MORRIS LESSMORE (USA) directed by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg. Despite a title that is impossible to remember, this little film was my favorite of the day. In a pretty creative way, it touts the impact that books can have on our lives. It has a tribute to Hurricane Katrina and The Wizard of Oz while it reminds us of the role books can play in providing hopes and dreams.  Humpty Dumpty and Pop Goes the Weasel both play a key role as we see books spring to life, and bring color to the world of kids and adults.

LA LUNA (USA) directed by Enrico Casarosa. This category wouldn’t be complete without the latest gem from Pixar. We see a young boy being introduced to a most unusual family business run by his father and grandfather. His real challenge is finding a way to keep them happy while still making his own mark. He succeeds in very dramatic fashion.

A MORNING STROLL (UK) directed by Grant Orchard. A NYC street scene plays out in three widely different eras: 1959, 2009, 2059.  The twist here is we see a chicken doing the same thing in all 3 time periods, while the people he confronts, and the environment, shift each time.

DIMANCHE / SUNDAY (Canada) directed by Patrick Doyon. A boy is searching for something interesting to do while his family carries on with their Sunday visit.  Things involved include a house-rattling train, 3 crows that mimic the old men, a “mounted” bear and a bunny rabbit.

WILD LIFE (Canada) directed by Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby. An English gentleman settles into a simple cabin in the harsh Alberta frontier in 1909.  His letters home paint a rosier picture than what reality dishes. The film compares his plight to that of a comet, replete with burnout.

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